Administrative Silence

Parties to cases who exercise the right of appeal can expect their applications to be rejected by administrative silence (negative silence).

Administrative acts that result from administrative silence may be also be asserted before the public administration. They are effective upon the expiration of the final deadline for the issuance and notification of the written decision (or attempted notification), even if one hasn’t been produced, and its existence may be attested by any form of evidence legally admissible, including the certificate attesting it was produced by silence, which can be requested by the competent decision-making body (the court).

The deadlines for filing legal appeals have to be calculated from the expiration of the final deadline for decision and notification, applying the general rules (subject to adjusting the deadlines from the notification of the written decision).

Translated by: Tomás A.

Request from Guillermo Fariñas Hernández to the Newspaper Granma

Request from Guillermo Fariñas Hernández with regards to the interview by Deisy Francis Mexidor, of the newspaper Granma, Saturday, July 3, 2010, with the Chief of Intensive Care at the University of Arnaldo Milián Castro Hospital.

The request was dictated by phone by Guillermo Fariñas to Licet Zamora Carrandi

The journalist Deisy Francis Mexidor intentionally omitted to detail the entire medical team attending Guillermo Fariñas Hernández. It includes: Dr. Armando Caballero López head of Intensive Care and Specialist in the Second Degree, Dr. Elias Becker Garcia, Second Degree Specialist in Nutrition Parenteral, Dr. Luis Alberto Pérez Santos, Second Degree Specialist in Intensive Care, Dr. Mauro López Ortega, Second Degree Specialist in Intensive Care, Dr. Mario Rodríguez Domínguez, Second Degree Specialist in Intensive Care, Dr. Rodolfo Delgado Martínez, Dr. Israel Serra Machado, Dr. Ernesto Fernandez Aspiolea, First Degree Specialist in Intensive Care, Dr. Marcos Castro Alonso, First Degree Specialist in Intensive Care, Dr. Yoniel Rivero Lóbrega, Third Year Resident in Critical Care and Dr . Cartaya Carlos Herrera, who is not part of the medical team because he is fulfilling a mission to Venezuela but on a visit to Cuba he has attended, every morning, the discussions of the medical team with respect to the progress of Guillermo Fariñas, because of his years of experience with the various strikes previously carried out.

Professor Armando Caballero made a slight error because I entered weighing 53 kilograms on March 11, and on occasion have been as high as 69.75 kilograms. All this has been thanks to the nutritionist Dr. Elias Becker, which makes us certain that Orlando Zapata Tamayo was assassinated because had he been given the medical attention that the newspaper Granma reports that I have been given, at this time he would not be deceased.

She omitted explaining the reason for my fast and suggested in the newspaper that it is a suicide and it was not explained to the readers that Guillermo Fariñas has been on a hunger strike since last February 24, demanding parole for 25 of the political prisoners in Cuban prisons as prisoners of conscience because they are in poor health.

I believe that because of my serious condition they have used the humanitarianism of the doctors to prepare the international media for my future death. I am aware of my upcoming death and consider it an honor to try to save the lived of the 25 political prisoners of conscience which our country needs as leaders. The only ones responsible for my future death are the brothers Fidel and Raul Castro. I trust in the medical and paramedic team treating me. That is why I have rejected the various offers that have been made to me to go to other countries. I want to die in my country under the noses of the dictators with their guns, rifles, canons and bombs. I have only the moral standing of a member of the ordinary people, misled and subjugated for 51 years by those who have weapons, violence, totalitarian laws and misgovernment from above.

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández

Get Me Off The List

I happened to overhear a scrap of conversation between two nurses at a clinic near my home. “This coming week they will publish the list…” said one, while the other looked at her with alarm and answered something I didn’t manage to catch. A few yards further on a taxi driver, talking into his cell phone, said, “I was saved, there are a ton of drivers on the list, but not me.” The issue began to puzzle me. Although on this Island there are no shortages of lists and inventories — in some we are forced to appear and others they won’t even let us peek at — one of them is especially upsetting for my compatriots. I knew they were talking about the lists of those who will be unemployed, pages full of names of those workers who exceed the needs in each workplace.

About 25% of the current workforce could end up on the street after the layoffs already under way. Some employees have been advised a week before their company runs out of money to pay them, and they have been without any unemployment compensation to support themselves until they can find another job. Faced with the dilemma of staying home or working in agriculture or construction, the majority choose to dive into domestic life in the hopes of new opportunities. They figure they can work offering illegal manicures, or preparing food to order, and it might pay better dividends than bending their backs over a furrow or raising brick walls.

Today, the issue of layoffs is a worry shared by all Cubans, because at least one member of each family will be affected by the cuts. However, the official press only talks about the layoffs in Greece and Spain, telling us about the call for a general strike in Madrid or the collapse of the economy in Athens. In the meantime, popular rumors feed off the personal stories of those who have already appeared on the frightful lists. In workplaces employees crowd around the wall, running their index fingers over the lists expecting to come across their own names. No one can take to the streets to protest what has happened, nor will they appear on the TV that only mentions unemployment when it happens thousands of miles away.

Government Representative Sued for Impeding the Exercise of Freedom of Association

The Cuban Legal Association, an organization of independent lawyers, lodged a complaint on 24 June before the Second Chamber of the Civil and Administrative Popular Provincial Tribunal of the City of Havana, against Justice Minister María Esther Reus González, for refusing permission for the legal constitution of the guild.

The event, described as exceptional by the jurists, is unprecedented in the 51 years of “Revolution.” It is the first time that a dissident organization has brought a legal action in court against a government representative.

The Cuban Legal Association, founded on October 1, 2008, provides legal advice to citizens who require their services. It also has among its objectives to raise the level of legal awareness of Cuban civil society. All this is done on a non-profit basis.

The Agency of the Central State Administration (OACE), chaired by Reus González, was silent at three distinct stages with respect to the request for a certificate, when it was supposed to certify whether there was another NGO on the island with the same name or purpose as the Cuban Legal Association.

The first two requests were directed to the Head of the Department of Registration of Associations, in April 2009 and March 2010. The third request was made, by means of an appeal, to Reus González, for breach of legal formalities.

The lawyers union gave notice at the expiration of the term for responding to a citizen petition, as provided by the State Constitution and the Civil Procedure Act. The document is the first step in the process to legalize a non-governmental organization (NGO), as required by the Regulation of Law No.54, “Associations.”

The lawsuit was filed by the justice group on 29 June, with the intent of challenging the decision (administrative silence) by the Department of Associations of the Ministry of Justice (MINJUS). At that point the court has precise legal time periods for acting. The presiding judge of the case will be Jolene Pereira Basanta.

Laritza Diversent

The Commander’s Chiaroscuros

Commander Delio Gómez Ochoa has disappeared from the annals of the Cuban military and bureaucracy. Only his family and colleagues remember his actions in war and the energy he put into businesses and regions in the country. Some say he fell into disgrace after his failed intervention in the Dominican Republic where he went in mid-1960 on the orders of Fidel Castro, as head of a special command intended to overthrow the tyrant Rafael L. Trujillo, who was executed a year later by a group of intimates.

Ochoa Gómez and his company landed in the region chosen, but could not seize the airport, deliver weapons and initiate an insurrection. They were not waiting for him with flowers, but rather with shrapnel. He barely managed to escape into the nearby mountains, others were hunted down and tortured by the bloodthirsty Ranfis, eldest son of Trujillo, who pardoned the life of the commander aggressor and returned him to Cuba with his pilot and plane.

I am updating the story as a friend to whom I lent La Fiesta del Chivo, a fictionalized biography by Mario Vargas Llosa about the Dominican despot, on returning the book to me reread the passage where the Peruvian writer tells of the military misadventure of Delio Gómez Ochoa and the “act of goodwill of Trujillo,” who anticipating the continental leadership of Fidel Castro, enlisted in 1947 in the abortive expedition of Cayo Confite.

It turns out that my friend worked with Gómez Ochoa, when the officer directed the National Marble Company, located in the late eighties in El Vedado (20th Street and 3rd). According to him, Vargas Llosa would have been interested the following anecdote of the soldier turned entrepreneur.

“I practiced as a specialist in lubricants at the office of Vincent, head of transport and a close friend of the director, who used more as a personal intermediary responsible for the vehicles. Delio was then in his sixties, of medium height, going gray, he knew nothing of marble or building materials and used to snore in meetings. He distinguished himself with beautiful young women, especially his secretary, a Caribbean nymph who led to his divorce.

“I can’t forget that morning when Delio’s wife came to the company in her Chaika — a Soviet-made luxury car — and threw into the reception area several boxes of the director’s clothes and belongings, who calmly called Vincent and ordered him to accompany us to his lover at a residence in Siboney. As the secretary did not like the mansion, a little while later poor Delio asked us to leave everything as it was and we helped her to settle into an apartment in the Almendares neighborhood, with a terrace overlooking the river.”

According to the friend, Commander Delio Gómez Ochoa was later promoted, while Vincent was killed in a tenement fire in Zanja Street in Central Habana, where he lived with his wife and children, waiting for the apartment that his boss had promised him. Fate is ironic, No?

SATANAVANA

SATURDAY NIGHT PHOBIA

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Unmuzzled dogs, lines of patrol cars, cops in every possible color-of-the-rainbow uniform, drunken masses, mobs lined up to put on the one bus or to get brained with a bottle.

Hey man, I’ll cut your fuckin’ face, asshole…!

Walkie-talkies, handcuffs, zambranes, tonfas, mace, Cuban free-for-all of the midnight death of the nation. Once in a while a bullet in the air, a helpless bleat to the moon, limit of the forgotten locals of twenty-first century socialism.

Fuck the poor of the earth, fuck the slaves without bread…

These are the Satanic Saturday nights in Sad-El-Vedado, Havana-With-Nothing, Son-of-a-Bitch-America. With this mass of meat we must constantly plow. And drag. Scratching the reefs of the island platform. Insulated. Insipid. Insulting.

Get ready to give it up, guys: Get thee behind me Satanvolution…!

Official history like a feces filled toilet. No excuses no pretexts. Context content with its own barbarism. No reporter accredited to this city speaks of the spontaneous riots, the ambulance sirens blaring with the triumphalist fanfare of street level politics that leads to the cell or the slab.

Get outta my way, move it or lose it…!

The capital of none of the Cubans is a village freezing in the colorless heat of the early morning hours. At night all police are gray. Rudeness is gratis. Wholesale gesticulation. Elevator music. Sixteenth-note salsa of carrion and sixty-fourth notes with nowhere to crash-boom-bang and escape. Rioting before reggaeton. Pedestrian pop. Congenital concerts. Loudspeakers grate like recycled speeches on a record outside of revolutions. Avenue 23 as a launching pad to catapult you to the pediment of the same and always the same place. Claustrophilia of L Street Holocastro, rhetorical madness. Anarchic pressure cooker.

Rice with cadaver: Da da da DUM, It’s almost over…!

Railroad Will

Cuba is a long and narrow island, with discrete mountain ranges along the coasts, ideal conditions for a good railroad. We were pioneers in this invention and being a colony of Spain, we had it before the metropolis. We should have an excellent rail network, it is an economic means of transport, ideal for the conditions of our poor country.

For many years the rail service has been awful. The trains are almost never depart or arrive on time, to the point of adding hours to a trip the farther it goes. Using the parcel service is to risk losing the contents of the package, whether by loss or damage, especially with food.

Once in the dark train cars, the bathrooms stink, the snacks are third class, I recall that you can travel in local currency, if you want a better offer, it’s in in foreign currency. You have to get used to the speed reductions, frequent stops and being shunted to sidings.

The condition of the roads has led to some very powerful and publicized locomotives, acquired from the People’s Republic of China, that can barely run at 30 kilometers per hour.

As already announced, 6,000 kilometers of roads will be rehabbed in the next three years. Elementary arithmetic tells me that fto accomplish that goal 5.5 km must be completed every day per day, a more frenetic pace than the train. The new vice president, Lussón, is the one who is going to resolve this complex issue of recovering the railway. He has experience in the field, as a young man he served as Minister of Transport. I wonder why it hasn’t been maintained all these years?

The Cinema, Soccer and Vuvuzelas

Exciting atmosphere. It’s 2:10 in the afternoon and outside the Yara cinema, right in the heart of the central 23rd Avenue, there are hundreds of people with T-shirts, caps, flags and scarves for the Spanish and other countries.

Most of the fans are young students from the nearby University of Havana, who wait, biting their nails, for the second round match between the Spain of Iker Casillas and the Portugal of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ubaldo Arias, 23, who studied this last year for a career in philosophy, is at the front of group supporting the Red Fury. Dressed in shirts of “Guaje” Villa, Fernando Torres and Xavi Hernandez.

They chant slogans. They are convinced Spain will be the new world champions. Some dark guys with their “canary” green and red mock them.

Arias and his band enter laughing, while fraternizing they tell them, “See you in the final.” There is still a stretch of competition. But the expected Spain-Brazil duel for the title is a real possibility.

A few minutes later the line forms. They start to sell tickets at two pesos (10 cents in dollars). The theater looks like a mini stadium.  It’s full.

On the big screen they’re showing the last game with Lithuania.  The room erupts with the racket of a thousand demons when the mustachioed Vicente del Bosque appears getting off the bus at the South African stadium.

The fans are chanting the names of the eleven Iberians, when they emerge on screen. “Ole, ole, ole Casillas, ole ole Tarzan Puyol, ” and so on until the 23 Spanish players get off the bus, on this island where it usually takes baseball to get most Cubans to their feet.

Since they started the second round matches, the theater management, ICAIC and the Institute of Radio and Television has the bright idea of showing the games on the wide screen.

People appreciate it. No alcoholic beverages are allowed inside. The various loyalties are discussed with passion and respect for the firm support of their different teams.

It’s true that Brazil, Argentina and Spain steal the show. But there are also, on the island, many rooting for The Netherlands and Germany. The good mood engulfs the bewildered tourists, who watch the enthusiasm with which Cubans enjoy the World Cup.

Latin American students are given their turn at the Yara cinema, to support the teams of their preferences. They are the coming generation. It could be the World Cup of America.

Four teams in the quarterfinals and a hunger for glory. It is not only Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay knows what it is to raise a cup and look askance at Julet Rimes’ trophy. Paraguay wants to make history.

But first they have to pass through comfortably placed Spain. While reaching the quarter finals, the different gangs enjoy the beauty of their triumph and suffer when their eleven goes tearfully back to the locker room.

No one can deny the good mood in the Yara. When David Villa scored the winning goal against Portugal that sent them into the quarterfinals, those in attendance, about two thousand of them, deliriously shouted GOOOOOOOOOAL.

At dark, many embraced. They jumped and shouted, “SPAIN! SPAIN!” These are the good things of football. The worse, the annoying high pitched noise of the vuvuzela. I don’t know how they managed to appear in Havana. But before such an event, someone passes them out. A World Cup is a World Cup.

Iván García

Photo: Kaloain Santos

The Street Belongs to Me, to You, and to Every Cuban

My name is Julián Guerra Deriet. I was born March 11, 1972. I live in cubicle 1 of hall 6, on Varona Street between Mayia Rodriguez and Lindero, in the Poey neighborhood, Arroya Naranjo municipality. My wife is names Marisol Bolanos Cordero, she’s pregnant and we already have one daughter.

My life is like that of many, a constant struggle. And if I decided to get married and have my own family, at least I have work to support them. I am not impudent, I was a shoemaker, craftsman, I tried a lot of things until one day I met a gentleman and with him I learned to make sweets. Nothing ever fell from the sky for me, I had to mow a lawn the size of a baseball field to earn $10. With this money I bought an oven, fixed it and went to work. Now many people know me as Julian the Pastry-maker. I live from this, making sweets. I don’t think it’s a good thing that there are political prisoners, I make them cake and with much love send it to them in prison.

Wait, allow me a commercial, I also make donuts that you know are better than glory and smell of resurrection.

Currently I’m a delegate of the Havana Political Prisoners Movement, and we go out often with a group of friends and perform acts of disobedience to demand respect for civil rights.

If I were to receive any help from the exile I would not leave this country; but I don’t get anything and I survive by performing a thousand tricks. My family is persecuted, harassed, they have beaten us, abused us, targeted us with acts of repudiation… My mother lives in Vedado, in Linea Street at the corner of 10th, just next to the newly opened “Casa del ALBA,” and when some bigwigs come, or the whole “10th of December” group, State Security goes around to her house and won’t let her leave.

For all the reasons I’ve explained, I’m asking for political asylum, and on February 1st I was awarded refugee status from the United States Interest Section in Cuba. In order for my wife and I to leave we need to go to Immigration to ask for the famous Exit Permit. Time, money, bad treatment… you already know it all.

In a few days my wife got the White Card (exit permit); but the little girl and I, nothing.

You understand? No, not me, I got angry, imagine, I’m working my life away here, sweating like crazy, and then some trash talker comes out with his buoyant face and destroys my family. No.

Later officials from State Security came by and asked me to stay calm, and promised me that on July 17th I could leave.

Look pal, this is called blackmail and I also won’t allow it. Leaving is my right; and my family is sacred. So be sure of it, buddy, I’m not going to stay calm, and I’m not going to be convinced.

The street belongs to me, to you, and every Cuban.

Whispers in the Wind

I looked at the picture of the political prisoner Ariel Sigler, taken after his release from prison. I closed my eyes, while various feelings swept over me. Once again I felt the reaction of the effect of his example. I wiped away the tears and composed myself.

I tried to imagine the future, before shouting aloud, “What destructive power and indolence! Who will pay for so much suffering? What is the formula for not harboring hatred and resentment? What will those say who today claim that all who dissent on the island do it for money? How much is seven years in prison worth, or the risk of going there?”

It is time to think in the present. What present? We live unique moments, but we can’t stop breathing uncertainty and incredulity. What will happen tomorrow? Doesn’t anyone know how and when the situation will end (if some day it will end)? A question to which there is no answer. Which is more disastrous, Greek tragedy or Cuban?

As they saying goes: “Everything that begins must end,” and another, “There is no evil that lasts 100 years, nor a body that can resist it.” Proverbs are laws of daily life, but how sad when daily they fill you with pessimism.

This is my present: daily walking the streets, taking public transportation, and feeling the reign of alienation. There is a single reality and worry for the preoccupied faces that pass by along the avenue: what to put on the table to eat. They sleep, but they do not have dreams. They know that there will be a tomorrow, but they are resigned not to think about the future.

They don’t know that there is an “unprecedented dialogue” between the church and the current leadership for the release political prisoners, that democratic governments of the world are pressing for respect of human rights on the island. They only know that there is a “media war against Cuba.” So they are informed by Granma, the Round Table, and Star News (NTV).

Instead, I try to find out and convey what is happening, so that the news runs from mouth to mouth, forming the snowball and later the avalanche. The listener keeps silent. You feel the look of doubt when with faith you pronounce the word “change.” It seems you do not understand, you are confused. Are you deaf, blind or dumb? No, they just think you’re crazy. There everyone stays, afraid to repeat what they hear, and your words remain, like a whisper in the wind.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Tomás A.

The United States Interests Section in Havana on that Country’s Independence Day

This year, as usual, the United States Interests Section in Havana held a well-deserved celebration of the independence of the United States and, as always, invited members of Cuban civil society. I think that Cuba is one of the few countries in the world that has outlawed this celebration, and far from honoring it, it discredits it with already tired epithets. Since I left prison in 2007, every July I receive with satisfaction and gratitude an invitation for myself and my wife,  Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera.

But this year I could not be there for various reasons, all of a repressive nature.

First, my wife Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera was suffering the pain of intercostal neuritis brought on by the cowardly agents of the political police in two brutal beatings and arrests in less than a week, for the simple and sole reason of trying to exercise two rights: to deliver a letter in the diocese of Santa Clara bound for Cardinal Ortega so that he might intercede before the tyranny of Havana in order to save the lives of both his brother, Mario Alberto Pérez Aguilera, as well as that of our beloved compatriot Ernesto Mederos Arrozarena, both on hunger strike in prison in Agüica.

Second, although the opportunity would have been conducive to telling those present to lend aid in the case of Mario Alberto and Ernesto, it was precisely the concern over their lives that has turned me into a sort of spokesman for the desperate and constant efforts Yris to that effect.

Third, if in other less complicated circumstances they have arrested me while trying to reach the capital, and at times after managing to do so, it appears that the hunting dogs are after my person, I don’t believe that with the bullying and harassment of which I’m a victim at this time in my own house, I would have been able to make it even as far as the bus or train station.

Congratulations to this great and hospitable nation in this patriotic day. I am convinced that sooner or later, we Cubans may also celebrate on May 20, in a free and democratic Cuba, where you and we can attend with reciprocity and without these absurd prohibitions of the repressive Castro regime, as it was in the times of the Republic, as it is in the free and civilized world.

Vacations, a Headache for Many Families

Summer vacation is here.  This means joy for children, adolescents, and young adults.  But many parents will have to take some aspirins.  If they managed to save some money in the moneybox during the last year, like 45-year-old Mario Guillen, then they might withstand the blow.

Guillen, a steel mill worker who works 10 hours a day in a factory on the outskirts of Havana and dedicates his free time to making steel windows and doors, is a cautious man.

When he shattered his red piggy bank, he counted 438 convertible pesos (that is nearly 330 dollars).  Sitting with his wife on a humid and rainy night towards the last days of June, they made some plans.

They have two sons, one is 10 and the other is 14.  Both are on summer vacation from school.  Guillen and his wife made their plans a month ago.  “We are thinking of taking our kids to the theatre, to the theme park, a quality restaurant, and the pool.  No beaches, they have told me that with oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico there have been numerous predatory marine animals that have migrated to our shores”, his wife, Mariana, worriedly states.

Rumors of fierce sharks and giant seals circling around the coasts off the beaches East of Havana really worry the parents.  According to specialists and the official press, all these rumors are false.  But some parents still harbor these fears.

The Guillen couple will also purchase provisions for the two months of vacation that their sons have.  Now, instead of feeding them once a day, they will need to also be given lunch and snacks.  “We’ll have to get some pork meat on the black market, in addition to fresh fish and chicken, rice, beans, oil, ham, sausages, and powdered soda.  We’ll spend nearly 150 convertible pesos (120 dollars) on that,” points out Guillen while he makes calculations on his old Chinese-made calculator.

At least the Guillen family has enough money to plan their kids’ vacations.  But if you ask Rogelio Ortega, a black man with huge eyes and a protruding belly, what recreational plans does he have for his 5 children, he’d stare back at you as if you were a strange creature.

“Same as always, lots of television. The boys could go play baseball or soccer on the streets, without shoes though, so they won’t ruin the few they already have. As for the girls, they’ll have to help their mom and grandma and play with their dolls.  If I get my hands on some money, I’ll take them to the coast on a random weekend so they could go for a swim between the rocks,” he explains in a very calm manner.

“You are not scared of a possible wave of sharks?”, I ask him. Ortega pats me on the shoulder and says:  “Those sharks are gonna have to be scared of my kids instead.  If they see it close to them, it’s most probable that they will probably eat it, fin and all,” he says while laughing.

Families like that of Rogelio Ortega are already familiar with what summer vacation means. More of the same. TV, one meal a day, and the kids having to deal with it whichever way they can. Their finances don’t produce enough for any other option.

For Junior Mendoza, 20, a university student, vacations just mean work.  “My parents don’t have the resources, I usually end up working in whatever clandestine job I can find for those two months. Sometimes I end up working at a cafeteria, an illegal cigarette factory, or even selling clothes and pacotilla (cheap merchandise).  I’m the salvation of my family during the vacations,” points out the young man with a piercing on his right ear.

For now, the World Cup serves as entertainment for the majority of Cuban families.  When June 11 comes around the series concludes, then that’s when the good stuff starts.  An abundance of worries, lack of money, and lack of provisions.  The government promised a wide variety of recreational options.  A wide billboard announcing TV programs, including 55 new series and nearly 500 films.  There will be sales of books, parties, fairs in public squares, and even some food offers.

Those who were able to save some money, like the family of Mario Guillen, will be aware of such events.  Those who don’t have even a cent, like the smiling Rogelio Ortega, could not care less about what they offer for the 2010 vacations.  For his family, summer is not a special event.  On the contrary.  It is a headache.

Ivan Garcia

Photo:  johnhope14, Flickr

Translated by Raul G.

The Cinema, Soccer and Vuvuzelas

Exciting atmosphere. It’s 2:10 in the afternoon and outside the Yara cinema, right in the heart of the central 23rd Avenue, there are hundreds of people with T-shirts, caps, flags and scarves for the Spanish and other countries.

Most of the fans are young students from the nearby University of Havana, who wait, biting their nails, for the second round match between the Spain of Iker Casillas and the Portugal of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ubaldo Arias, 23, who studied this last year for a career in philosophy, is at the front of group supporting the Red Fury. Dressed in shirts of “Guaje” Villa, Fernando Torres and Xavi Hernandez.

They chant slogans. They are convinced Spain will be the new world champions. Some dark guys with their “canary” green and red mock them.

Arias and his band enter laughing, while fraternizing they tell them, “See you in the final.” There is still a stretch of competition. But the expected Spain-Brazil duel for the title is a real possibility.

A few minutes later the line forms. They start to sell tickets at two pesos (10 cents in dollars). The theater looks like a mini stadium. It’s full.

On the big screen they’re showing the last game with Lithuania. The room erupts with the racket of a thousand demons when the mustachioed Vicente del Bosque appears getting off the bus at the South African stadium.

The fans are chanting the names of the eleven Iberians, when they emerge on screen. “Ole, ole, ole Casillas, ole ole Tarzan Puyol, ” and so on until the 23 Spanish players get off the bus, on this island where it usually takes baseball to get most Cubans to their feet.

Since they started the second round matches, the theater management, ICAIC and the Institute of Radio and Television has the bright idea of showing the games on the wide screen.

People appreciate it. No alcoholic beverages are allowed inside. The various loyalties are discussed with passion and respect for the firm support of their different teams.

It’s true that Brazil, Argentina and Spain steal the show. But there are also, on the island, many rooting for The Netherlands and Germany. The good mood engulfs the bewildered tourists, who watch the enthusiasm with which Cubans enjoy the World Cup.

Latin American students are given their turn at the Yara cinema, to support the teams of their preferences. They are the coming generation. It could be the World Cup of America.

Four teams in the quarterfinals and a hunger for glory. It is not only Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay knows what it is to raise a cup and look askance at Julet Rimes’ trophy. Paraguay wants to make history.

But first they have to pass through comfortably placed Spain. While reaching the quarter finals, the different gangs enjoy the beauty of their triumph and suffer when their eleven goes tearfully back to the locker room.

No one can deny the good mood in the Yara. When David Villa scored the winning goal against Portugal that sent them into the quarterfinals, those in attendance, about two thousand of them, deliriously shouted GOOOOOOOOOAL.

At dark, many embraced. They jumped and shouted, “SPAIN! SPAIN!” These are the good things of football. The worse, the annoying high pitched noise of the vuvuzela. I don’t know how they managed to appear in Havana. But before such an event, someone passes them out. A World Cup is a World Cup.

Iván García

Photo: Kaloain Santos

Iván’s Blog: Iván’s File Cabinet

My Memory, Good and Bad

What you see here is a detail of the “La Coubre” Terminal. Its specialty?: Putting passengers on the Waiting List. Is there a Cuban who hasn’t passed through here? Well, yes, of course, company directors, highest level military, and officials powerful enough to make all their journeys by plane from Havana at the cost of their company or institution.

At times I berate myself for not being more meticulous with some of my accounts, I should have counted the nights I’ve slept at La Coubre waiting for a bus that never shows, meaning that it wouldn’t have been in the itinerary, but that it has failed eighty time on the way, blown a piston, blown a tire, or the drivers have made more than the twenty regulated stops between Havana and Holguin.

I can count the times I’ve had almond ice cream, eaten half a pound of ham, or that I could buy myself a book by Humberto Eco for five dollars: ONCE.

But no way do I remember the number of times the Havana-Santiago de Cuba train has been canceled an hour before departure. I can’t remember because I lost count.

I have to accept my propensity for mental Vaseline. Bad things lead me down the road to amnesia.


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Luis Felipe’s Blog: Crossing the Barbed Wire.

Waiting for the Americans

There is still a labyrinth of parliamentary procedures. But the U.S. Congress is considering authorizing the travel of its citizens to Cuba. The measure appears to have great potential for adoption.

Already the Castro brothers are sharpening their teeth. If the gringo politicians say yes, cash registers will overflow with dollars. Let the ‘bucks’ (dollars) we are waiting for come, it could mean the government of the island!

And how needed they are. We know that the Cuban economy is not even treading water. For 17 years, since they legalized the possession of dollars in 1993, in large part, the emigrants, the despised ‘worms’, as Fidel Castro liked to say with some rage, are those who have kept the impoverished economy from sinking.

Yes. Its more than one billion greenbacks a year are the lifeline of a regime that has always been repulsed by the “American way of life.” The United States is public enemy number one for Fidel Castro. But there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since 1959.

And while you stir the guts of the old guerrilla commander, in this 2010, the land of Stars and Stripes is the leading seller of food to Cuba. Also their NGOs are the ones who provide the most help. And Cuban-Americans, are an important segment of the people who come to go sightseeing and spend hard currency.

The embargo is a fossil of the cold war. A joke. It only served as a pretext for Castro to maintain his authoritarian policies and to deny a handful of essential freedoms to his people.

It always had more holes than Swiss cheese. While Castro, the one with the beard, shouts himself hoarse in any public plaza, talking about what the country suffered because of the”blockade,” while hard currency shops and cafes sell Coca Cola and Dell computers.

For the rest, the world condemned the prohibitory and unilateral policy of Washington to Havana. It is healthy that the administration of Obama reconsiders. And demolishes all the scaffolding mounted on a stage that many years ago said goodbye.

Cuba is no longer a prodigal and conflicting son of the former USSR. Let it be known, Latin American and African guerrillas are not training in military camps on the island, to create pockets of civil war in other nations.

To not allow U.S. citizens to travel to the island was a major folly. It brazenly violated their rights. The champion of democracy and freedoms could not afford such nonsense.

Either way, Americans who wanted to, could come to Cuba through a third country. More than 50 thousand per year, according to reliable figures. Although they feared the Castros.

If the embargo ends and travel is allowed he will continue ruling with an iron fist all who oppose him, and then the eyes of the world will be on an anachronistic and undemocratic regime.

Already the local mandarins have tried out a few variations. If the Yankees take their foot off the accelerator, it could be that the Cuban government, kicking the ball back into Obama’s court, might make some mid-sized changes, maybe even some profound ones.

Those who govern our destinies do not believe in representative democracy. But will do what they have to do to stay in power.

No wonder that during the stay of the Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, in the coming days, they will release 52 political prisoners from the Black Spring of 2003. As a reward for Spain’s Socialist Party, a faithful friend through thick and thin. And as Spain will be able to claim the laurels, it will not appear that such releases have been conditioned by the possible openings from Obama’s government.

With that, the Castros will kill two birds with one stone. They get the international pressure to ease up a bit, and incidentally, unlock the European Union’s common position. That fox Moratinos knows a thing or two.  He already said there could soon be some surprises.

This summer brings a three-way political game. United States, Spain and the Cuban Catholic Church, which is chosen by the government to serve as mediator in the conflict with the Yankees and the release of political prisoners.

The brothers from Birán need peace and some leeway to implement a series of tough and unpopular ecnomic measures to get the country out of the hole created by bad management. If tomorrow the Yankees land in Havana, it won’t only benefit the managers of tourism. It will benefit the Castros, too.

And, of course, the Cubans who live on the informal economy. And there are many. Gringos putting dollars into the hands of private homes for rent and buying illegal tobacco boxes. Whores chasing after the blong guys, tall and unmarried from America, they might even propose marriage.

As I write this note the news still hadn’t run from mouth to mouth, but the neigbors I talk to receive it with great joy. Even the married and ex-military party militant. The happiest, the private taxi driver who brought me to a hotel and the waiter who served me coffee while I connected to the internet.

The two gave me an opinion that I happen to share: “If the Cuban government wants the Americans to come en masse, they’re going to have to eliminate that diabolical 20% tax on the dollar.”

Otherwise the Yankees are going to keep on visiting Punta Cana.

Iván García

Photo: Patricio Bridges, Flickr